Two nonprofits, Hearts Respond and Freedom4u, both of which were founded by Dr. Greg Allen, are holding a fundraiser for Point Fermin Elementary School on July 23. Naturally, they are holding it at Point Fermin Park, and calling it Point Fermin day.
“We wanted to kind of adopt a school in a sense,” Allen said. “But after this one, we’d like to do the same thing at different elementary schools in the Harbor Area.”
Allen said he spoke to Jennie Wong, the principal of the school, and asked her what the school needs. She decided on upgrading the playground.
“We’re trying to create a space for students to really enjoy time on the yard,” Wong said. “Where they have multiple opportunities to work together in cooperative groups and to have a place to play and learn from one another.”
Wong said it will probably be simple, and allow students to use paint and stencils on the playground. The school will create places where the students can play particular games, and gain professional development, using space in creative ways as they play together.
Wong said she is considering using a program called Peaceful Playgrounds, which works to improve play areas at schools.
“Some of the templates that we’re looking at are social emotional learning templates, and sensory spaces for our diverse learners at our school,” Wong said.
Point Fermin Elementary School has about 290 students, and was built about 110 years ago. It has concrete over almost all of the outdoor space.
“We don’t have very much grass,” Wong said. “And we can’t bring in a bulldozer and pull everything out either.”
Wong wants to take away the hard look of the playground. Right now, all the children see are yellow and white lines, indicating places for basketball or kickball.
“I wanted to give students that community where they get to pick the different types of stencils that we get to paint on the ground, depending on the different activities,” Wong said.
Wong recalled seeing chalk lines drawn by children on the sidewalk at the beginning of the pandemic, which would say things like “hop here” or “jump here” next to them. They would make creative games, and that’s the feeling Wong wants to recreate at her school.
Wong says that Allen wants to help children reach their potential, which is her own goal.
“My core belief is that if you give a child a purpose in life, that they’ll always stretch towards that success,” Wong said.
Freedom4u has been around for 20 years and had programs in 17 schools in four school districts before the pandemic. They teach creative art, life skills, leadership and service.
“We’ve been doing programs in the Harbor Area for about the last four years,” Allen said. “After school programs in San Pedro, and Wilmington and things all the way into Long Beach.”
However, they haven’t been doing their afterschool programs since the start of the pandemic, as most schools don’t allow outside agencies to enter.
Allen wanted to focus more on the Harbor Area, which is why he founded Hearts Respond. Both nonprofits are intended to help families. Hearts Respond has a studio in downtown San Pedro, and has shows during First Thursday, as well as offices in downtown San Pedro.
In addition, Allen said he has a program that has middle school students mentor elementary school students, and will involve Point Fermin Elementary School in this program next year.
Allen said they are hoping to raise about $15,000 for the fundraiser. Admission to the fundraiser is free of charge, so they are raising money through sponsorships.
“I know people care more about their school than another school, but we hope to duplicate this and triplicate it and go from school to school,” Allen said.
At the event itself, there will be activities for children, including crafts and face painting. There will be live bands as well, and a variety of music. This includes a band called The Kraze, which plays jazz, rock, hip hop and funk.
Three-piece mariachi trio, called Trio Chapala, and a group called The Hearts Respond band, named after one of the nonprofits, will also play at the fundraiser. In addition, there will be performances by solo singers and hula dancers.
Allen said that while there will be a variety of musical styles, the theme is lighthouses.
“It’s the same thing a principal does, or an educator, and it’s the same thing a parent does with their kids,” Allen said. “It’s what the lighthouse does, that sense of giving direction and guidance, and trying to prevent someone from crashing on the rocks.”
Allen said that he hopes to give other people hope.
“People ask you, ‘why are you doing this, what’s your agenda?” Allen said. “I just feel like there’s real benefit when you help people, to the giver. The giver receives as much as they give. They really do. And that’s why we take teams to do service and help other people, because it really changes their perception on life.”